So this past weekend was our second visiting each other. I went to El Paraiso this time, partly to celebrate my birthday, which was yesterday. Here, for birthdays, the special dish is chop suey. Yes chop suey as in the Chinese food. And if you can imagine Chinese food made by Hondurans, you can imagine that it's not very good, so I’m trying to avoid that.
The bus to El Paraiso trip was actually kind of quick. The bus from Ojojona to Teguz takes about an hour and a half, even though it should only take 30 minutes, because it's a chicken bus that stops every mile or so. The bus from Teguz to El Paraiso is about an hour and a half as well, but it's a nice mini bus called a Rapidito. El Paraiso was beautiful this weekend, not too hot. Saturday we went to the campo to watch some of our fellow compañeros play futbol. Unfortunately, the El Paraiso marching band was practicing on the concrete court so they had to wait awhile until they finished. The band was pretty good actually and it was really nice to spend some time with the Wat/San people, since I haven't seen them in awhile.
El Paraiso is huge compared to Ojojona. Ojojona has about two restaurants, one farmacia, a few artisan shops and some pulperias (basically corner stores, literally on every corner). El Paraiso has paved roads, a grided street layout, tons of restaurants and shops, and even some Ropa Americana stores. These stores basically import ropa bulto (clothes in a big bag or bolt) that is from second hand stores or good will in the U.S. and then resell it out of huge piles in the stores. You can find weird stuff, like things from Gap and Tommy Hilfiger for 20 Lempiras (about a dollar). We even found a Michigan basketball t-shirt yesterday, although it was a little stained....
I’m more than a little jealous of all the offerings of El Paraiso.
My training in business has been going well, but has been a little boring since I’m not really interested in business finance/planning. I’m actually going on a trip with my group to visit the small island of Amapala off the southern coast this week for a lesson on tourism in Honduras. Although there are not as many tourists here as in other countries, like Costa Rica for example, Honduras is really trying to promote tourism (and sustainable or eco-tourism) as a way to build its economy. There are a lot of national parks and bio-reserves as well as the beautiful Bay Islands and some interesting historical/cultural tracks, including the Copan Ruinas (Mayan). Plus it is ridiculously cheap here - so you all should come visit!
Things overall have been going really well. It's actually been kind of rainy in Ojojona which is rare for this time of year. The meteorologists have been warning farmers not to plant crops yet because the rain is a 'false start' to the season and shouldn't last long. Farmers usually plant when it starts to rain, but if the rain doesn't continue, the crops won’t survive so they need to be extra careful.
The business climate here is very interesting. People don't have a good sense of what it means to open and run a business. They just think "hey, I can make tortillas, I should start a business", without taking into consideration the fact that 40 other people are thinking and doing the same thing. People are also sometimes afraid to advertise or put up signs, partly because they are expensive and partly because they "don't like to attract strangers" as one lady put it. They don't necessarily understand the concepts of profit or tracking finances or paying themselves a salary much of the time. That being said, there are still some businesses doing really well. But many do fail.
We've also decided it's interesting how Honduras appears to outsiders compared to what it actually is. Houses are a great example. Here, people don't necessarily fix up the outside of their houses like they do in the U.S. Often they are poorly painted, rocks holding down the corrugated zinc roofs, ugly bars on the windows (this is for safety though). But people living in houses that look crappy still lead a pleasant and content existence. They take a lot of pride in their appearance and hygiene and are amazing at cooking on wood burning stoves. And you'd often be surprised by the beauty inside the houses, tile floors, bathroom, normal stuff. Just looking around a lot of the time, you'd assume everyone is leading an impoverished existence. Of course there are desperately poor people, drunks or bolos, and gangs etc, but most people have lifestyles which are pretty similar those in the US.
The "don’t judge a book by its cover" rule goes for people much of the time as well. When walking down the street, people often appear grumpy, upset, mean, rude. But as soon as you say hola or buenos dias, they brighten up and respond with a smile and reply. The exterior does not reflect what's on the inside. We've overall found the people here to be incredibly welcoming and generous and friendly. My family even calls me a miracle because they think I’m such a well-behaved and smart trainee :)
We hope hope hope to post some pictures soon so you can bring our words to life, but the internet connection is so slow that it makes it difficult. But we will try soon!